Saturday, June 23, 2012

Borderline Psychosis- Gunmen Open Fire, Kill 11 at Rehab Center; Police, TV Stations Targets in Matamoros Grenade Attack; Feds Allege Zetas Ponied Up Cash for Oklahoma Horse Ranch; Slain Agent's Family Sues DOJ

COAHUILA- Eleven people were killed and another ten people were wounded after gunmen entered a drug rehabilitation center in Coahuila and opened fire earlier this month. Citing state prosecutors, NotiMex reported that armed men entered the Your Life on the Rock rehab center in Torreon and fired more than 60 rounds at around 10 PM local time before fleeing.

Gangs have frequently targeted rehabilitation centers throughout Mexico since 2009 with at least 66 people killed since then.
The motive for Sunday's shooting was not immediately clear. Several factors have made rehab centers targets, said Edgardo Buscaglia, an expert on organized crime and president of the Mexico-based nonprofit Instituto de Accion Ciudadana (Citizen Action Institute).

"The people who go there are usually involved in buying or selling drugs," he said. "We're talking about urban gangs or youth gangs that are in charge of delivering these drugs to the final consumers in the urban markets."

Some of them may have talked with police, drawing ire from former associates, he said. Others may be targets for rival gangs seeking revenge.

"They kill them because these kids are either witnesses for the authorities or ... some of those kids may be working in the selling of drugs. Adversary groups kill them in the same ways they kill politicians working for the adversary groups," he said. "Once you work for different organized crime groups, it's very hard to get away from it."
By 2010, drug dealing inside rehab centers had become so rampant in northern states like Chihuahua that most of them had simply shut down.

TEXAS- The family of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent slain in Mexico last year has filed a wrongful death suit against the DOJ this week.

Two of the weapons recovered at the scene of Zapata's killing and the wounding of his partner, Victor Avilla, were traced back to Texas. A Baytown, TX man was sentenced to 8 years for buying one of the guns- an AK47 variant- through a straw purchaser.

In documents obtained by CBS news, it was learned that the man, 30 year old Manuel Gomez Barba, was under surveillance for 6 months before the weapon turned up at the shooting of Zapata and Avilla.
Documents indicate ATF opened its case against Barba, entitled "Baytown Crew," in June of 2010. During the investigation, court records state Barba recruited straw purchasers and "facilitated the purchase and exportation of at least 44 firearms" including assault rifles. On August 20, 2010 Barba took delivery of the WASR-10 semi-automatic rifle later used in Zapata's murder, obliterated its serial number, and sent it to Mexico with nine others just like it. Nearly two months later, on Oct. 8, 2010, ATF agents recorded a phone call in which Barba "spoke about the final disposition of ... firearms to Mexico and also about the obliterating of the serial numbers before they were trafficked." Barba told straw purchasers the guns were destined for the Zeta drug cartel.
This has led to speculation that there have been ongoing concurrent 'gunwalking' operations similar to Fast & Furious that have been taking place outside of Arizona, although the ATF and Justice Department deny it.

JALISCO- A surveillance video from January of this year showing heavily armed local police officers barging into a hotel and taking away three men was released by Mexican prosecutors last week.

However, instead of making an arrest, the video shows that the police in Lagos de Moreno were carrying out a kidnapping on behalf of one of the drug gangs. The three men being shown taken out of the hotel and stuffed into a police truck later turned up dead, killed by asphyxiation and blunt-force trauma.

Before entering the hotel, the video shows the police truck pulling up in front of the hotel followed by a civilian truck. One of the policemen approaches the civilian vehicle that came in behind the police truck and is given what appears to be a list. Video from the hotel's interior shows the officers approaching the reception desk and asking what room the men on the list are staying in. After handcuffing the men and taking them out of the hotel, the local officers wait patiently as the victims' luggage and vehicle are taken before driving off behind the stolen truck and the truck that followed them to the hotel.
While the kidnapping and murder occurred in January, and the faces of several officers were clearly seen on the videos, the officers were not detained until June 6, when soldiers and state police raided a local police station. And they still have not been formally charged with any crime.

"It took time to obtain the video tapes, to do the investigation, and to get the arrest warrants," said Jalisco state prosecutor's spokesman Lino Gonzalez said Thursday. "We didn't have the information."

Gonzalez said that so far, seven policemen and officials of the municipal police force of Lagos de Moreno have been detained pending charges.

There are still mysteries surrounding the case, including whether the gunmen thought the victims were members of a rival drug cartel. The victims were from the northern state of Coahuila, where the hyperviolent Zetas cartel has been battling the Sinaloa cartel, allies of Jalisco Nueva Generacion.

Gonzalez said the victims, before checking into the hotel, had been briefly detained by police at the local jail for a minor infraction. They paid a fine and were released. But while in custody, "They said something indiscrete," Gonzalez said. "Apparently they said something like 'We're from Coahuila, and we're part of the mafia.'"

It's not unusual in Mexico for detainees to boast about their connections, hoping to press corrupt police to release them.

This time, however, it backfired.

"Apparently, somebody at the jail heard the comment, and reported it to the real criminals," Gonzalez said.

Jalisco state Attorney General Tomas Coronado told local media the men had claimed to be Zetas.

He said it has never been proved the men were gang members. They may have just been in Lagos de Moreno collecting the rent on a ranch, and they are being treated simply as victims.
Investigators believe the gunmen giving police instructions are affiliated with the recently-formed and rapidly expanding New Generation cartel. Since 2009, the New Generation has been engaged in bloody turf battles with Los Zetas, La Familia Michoacan and now the remnants of La Familia that make up the Knights Templar.

Although widespread corruption and complicity on the part of local police throughout Mexico has been alleged by observers in both Mexico and the USA even before the narco-killings began spiraling out of control, this is thought to be one of the first times such clear-cut evidence of local policemen working hand in hand with drug gangs was caught on vide.

TAMAULIPAS- No injuries were reported after a series of grenade attacks rocked the border city of Matamoros over the first weekend in June. Two earlier attacks targeted an auto dealership and a municipal police station. A thrid device was found at the Televisa studios in the southwest side of the city, but authorities managed to clear the area before disposing of the device.

On Monday, El Nuevo Herald reported that two more grenade attacks targeting a high school and college campus took place in the early morning hours of Monday. Eyewitnesses said that classes weren't in session yet and that there were no reports of injuries.

The attacks had prompted state and local police to shift from patrolling with one or two people per vehicle while on patrol to moving about the city in convoys. Matamoros is directly across the border from Brownsville, TX and the US Consulate issued a travel warning to Americans south of the Border shortly after the attacks.

A few days after the Matamoros grenade attacks, 14 dismembered bodies were left in an abandoned bus adorned with a narco banner addressed to Los Zetas outside the city hall in Ciudad Mante, some 250 miles south of Matamoros and the US-Mexico border.

ELSEWHERE IN TAMAULIPAS- Two former state governors are being sought for questioning after federal prosecutors in Mexico issued a detention warrant for the politicians.
Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba and Eugenio Hernández Flores are named in a detention warrant in connection with money laundering and organized crime, two officials with the Mexico Attorney General’s Office — known by its Spanish abbreviation PGR — independently confirmed to The Monitor. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, as they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly
Although neither individual has been charged with a crime, Mexican law allows for detention and questioning of up to 40 days before charges can be filed.

Although Yarrington has denied any wrongdoing and claims the detention orders are politically motivated, Mexican authorities have arrested one of Yarrington's business associates for laundering bribe money allegedly paid by the Gulf Cartel to look the other way for operations in Tamaulipas. According to Mexican prosecutors and a civil suit filed in Federal Court in Corpus Christi, TX Yarrington and his associates invested in Texas real estate and used a number of shell companies to launder cartel payoffs, including a luxury condo in South Padre Island, TX.
The complaint accuses Yarrington of using ill-gotten money to buy a condo on South Padre Island, using a third party to buy the $450,000 property.

The condo is owned by Napoleon Rodriguez, owner of Ferretera Industrial Rodriguez, a hardware supply company that has been contracted by the city of Matamoros and state of Tamaulipas to supply paint and lights, the complaint states. The upscale, 1,946-square-foot unit is halfway up the 29-story high rise, with sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre.
In late May, charges were filed against fugitive Mexican businessman and contractor Fernando Alejandro Cano Martinez for conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Although Yarrington denies any ties with Cano, the indictment alleges that Cano facilitated the payment of bribes from the Gulf Cartel to state and local officials in Tamaulipas since 1998.

The accusations against Yarrington- dubbed 'The Yarrington Affair'- and could factor into Mexico's tightly contested Presidential election this summer. Yarrington's membership in the PRI was suspended a few weeks ago.

In 2010, Mexican newspaper Reforma published an article identifying one of then-Tamaulipas state governor Eugenio Hernandez Flores' bodyguards as a reputed member of the Zetas.

OKLAHOMA- Federal agents conducted simultaneous raids on a sprawling horse ranch south of Oklahoma City and New Mexico racetrack earlier this month on suspicion prominent horse owners were using racehorse breeding to launder profits from the los Zetas drug trafficking.
An indictment unsealed Tuesday accused Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, a key figure in the Zetas drug operation, of setting up a horse operation that a younger brother operated from a ranch near Lexington, Okla., south of Oklahoma City. Millions of dollars went through the operation, which bought, trained, bred and raced quarter horses throughout the southwest United States, including the famed Ruidoso Downs track in New Mexico.

“This case is a prime example of the ability of Mexican drug cartels to establish footholds in legitimate U.S. industries and highlights the serious threat money laundering causes to our financial system,” said Richard Weber, the chief of the IRS' criminal investigation unit.

Seven of the 14 people indicted were arrested, including Jose Trevino Morales and his wife, Zulema. Another Trevino brother was also charged.

Prosecutors asked that no bond be set for Trevino fearing he would either flee or intimidate witnesses. Neither Trevino nor his lawyer, Tony Lacy, commented, and a lawyer for Zulema Trevino said he knew little about the case.

The indictment describes how the Trevino brothers and a network quietly arranged to purchase quarter horses with drug money at auction and disguise the source of the funds used to buy them so that the Zetas' involvement would be masked. They would often pay in cash, or use fake names, which helped keep the owners and the money a secret.

Since 2008, the operation racked up millions of dollars in transactions in California, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, prosecutors said.

The operation, Tremor Enterprises LLC, started small, but worked in plain sight. Some horses carried names with drug references, like Coronita Cartel. Over time, the horses and the operation earned a place on some of the most elite stages in the industry. One horse named Mr. Piloto won a $1 million prize at Ruidoso Downs on Labor Day 2010, going off at odds of 22-1. Another named Tempting Dash won the Dash for Cash at Lone Star Park racetrack in Grand Prairie, Texas.

During the raids Tuesday, dozens of federal agents swarmed the New Mexico racetrack, wearing bulletproof vests and collecting evidence. At least two horses were taken away. Shaun Hubbard, general manager of the Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino, said the track officials know little about the raid but they are cooperating with federal authorities.

Seizure warrants were issued for 41 horses deemed the operations' most valuable, in an effort to prevent their being taken to Mexico. Among those was Mr. Piloto. The government sought an order to ensure the care of 384 other horses at the ranch, which sits among rolling hills about 40 miles south of Oklahoma City.

The director of the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association said Jose Trevino showed up a few years ago and quickly earned a reputation for always paying his bills and shelling out handsome prices for some of the top horses in the country.

“They were also recognized for taking care of their business. They paid their bills and didn't cause any trouble. You didn't have a food vendor or veterinarian calling to say they couldn't get these guys to pay their bills. They were good citizens in the horse industry,” Debbie Schauf said.

She said it was common for buyers based out of the country to pay cash for horses, but that several transactions were noteworthy for their value.

“It didn't raise a lot of eyebrows when these guys came to the sales and started paying cash. What raised eyebrows was the quality of the horses they were buying and the amount of money these mares cost,” Schauf said.
A US Magistrate Judge was less than impressed with the prosecution's case against one of the accused, ordering that 20 year old Raul Ramirez be released on $10,000 bond at the federal courthouse in El Paso this week.

In recent years, drug cartels and other criminal enterprises have gotten increasingly creative when it came to laundering the profits from their illegal activity. in addition to at least one former governor of Tamaulipas under investigation for using proxies to launder bribe money from the Gulf cartel through real estate holdings in Texas while others have used perfume sales, pecan farming and even a screenplay for the proposed prequel to The Passion of the Christ.

MEXICO CITY- A panel of Mexican judges approved the extradition of Sandra Avila Beltran to the USA on one of two charges filed against her by the Department of Justice.

Avila Beltran- who is sometimes known in Mexico as 'The Queen of the Pacific' and the niece of incarcerated narco Godfather Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo who is serving a 40 year prison sentence for the 1985 murder of a DEA agent. Avila Beltran's courtship of Colombian Juan Diego Espinoza strengthened ties between her family's Sinaloa cartel and Espinoza's Norte Del Valle cartel.
The three federal appellate judges said Sandra Avila Beltran could be tried outside of Mexico, but only on one of the two charges prosecutors sought.

Avila cannot be tried for the seizure of more than nine tons of U.S.-bound cocaine off a vessel in Mexico's western port of Manzanillo because a Mexican judge acquitted her in that case in December 2010. An appeals court upheld the verdict last August.

Previous requests to extradite the high-profile suspect have been denied twice by a panel and then by a judge, who argued that the confiscation of the nine tons of cocaine would inevitably be part of the foreign trial.

But the judges on Thursday ruled that Beltran has to answer to a charge stemming from several seizures in Chicago in 2001 that amounted to 100 kilograms of cocaine. The 2004 indictment in the Southern District of Florida does not specify Beltran's role in the drug-dealing case.

Mexico's Foreign Relations Department must re-file the extradition request to leave out the charge related to the Manzanillo seizure.
Avila Beltran has been in custody since 2007 and is currently incarcerated in Nayarit where she was being held on separate charges of money laundering. She was transferred to the Pacific coast state last year after it was discovered prison officials were allowing her to get botox treatment while at Mexico City's Santa Martha Acatitla women's lockup. The warden and head doctor were immediately fired over their preferential treatment of La Reina Del Pacifico.

NUEVO LEON- The Mexican Navy is quickly backpedalling from claims that they had the son of fugitive billionaire Sinaloa cartel head Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman in custody after arresting 23 year old Felix Beltran Leon in suburban Guadalajara on Thursday.

Guzman, who was paraded before cameras after his arrest, is a used car salesman and his wife, mother and lawyer provided the media voting credentials, a driver's licence and childhood photos of him as proof.

After it was learned Mexican troops had arrested the wrong man, Mexican officials blamed the DEA for providing them with faulty intelligence while the DEA denies the charges. Guzman was also on display before the media in front of a table with bundles of cash worth more than $130,000 and weapons- including grenades- reportedly seized by from his residence.
Ms. Pacheco showed The Associated Press what she said were her husband’s voting credential and driver’s license. The man arrested bears only slight resemblance to a photograph of Mr. Guzman’s son recently issued by the U.S. Treasury Department.

There is total confusion,” said Mr. Beltran Leon’s lawyer Veronica Guerrero,“... which is having a serious effect on their personal and family situation.”

Ms. Pacheco said the couple and their 1-year-old were sleeping in their home in Zapopan, a suburb of the western city of Guadalajara, when marines kicked in the door and arrested her husband and his half-brother, 19-year-old Kevin Daniel Beltran Rios.

Authorities identified Beltran Rios as an alleged member of the Sinaloa Cartel.

The men were found with a grenade launcher and four grenades, two assault rifles, two pistols and $135,000 in cash, the navy said. Pacheco said there were no drugs or guns, but the family did have the cash because of a recent home sale.

Another lawyer, Heriberto Rangel Mendez, said the government planted the weapons.

Ms. Pacheco said her husband works at Autos Pacheco, a used car dealership that gunmen attacked in May, killing one man. The target was a customer looking at cars, not the business, Ms. Pacheco said, though media reports said the dealership owner was killed.

“We’ve never had any links to drug traffickers,” Ms. Pacheco said. “He’s not the person they say he is.”
The blunder could prove costly to Calderon's PAN party in the upcoming Mexican elections. Under Mexico's constitution, the presidency is limited to one 6-year term, so Calderon can't run for re-election. Recent polls show PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto extending his lead over PRI candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota and the PRD's Andres Manuel Obrador.

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